Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a press briefing in Augusta on June 30, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. There are 15 days until the Nov. 2 referendum election.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He is pretty good at hanging the laundry, but hasn’t figured out the folding yet,” said Al Larson, of Orono, when he saw a black bear playing with hanging laundry in his backyard earlier this year. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The governor will lay out $100 million in stimulus spending in the shadow of a hospital hit by her vaccine mandate. Gov. Janet Mills has been increasingly on the road lately, with two visits to Portland last week to highlight wastewater projects and with a top federal official to draw attention to Maine’s new state-based Affordable Care Act marketplace

She will be in Lewiston on Monday to unveil the first $100 million in spending under Maine Democrats’ $983 million COVID-19 relief plan on Monday afternoon. It’s not a campaign event, but it will notably feature a downtown business walk after former Gov. Paul LePage’s quiet campaign over the summer picked up with an announcement speech last month.

During the pandemic, governors have shouldered the pressure of balancing the public health aspects of the pandemic with trying to help their states recover fiscally. Mills’ policies have generally enjoyed good public approval ratings, but her unwillingness to compromise on a requirement for health care workers to be vaccinated is proving to be a massive test.

Mills has held firm that the requirement is the best way to keep workers and their patients safe and that it will be superseded by a just-as-strong federal mandate. However, the closing of some nursing homes and the stoppage of some services at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston have highlighted how the requirement can add to lingering workforce shortages

Worker vaccination rates have climbed in the last month ahead of the Oct. 29 enforcement date, but even small numbers of departures could hamstring some providers. Republicans, including LePage, have made an appeal for a testing alternative into their chief policy cause in recent weeks after federal judges declined to delay health Mills’ requirement.

Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, appeared on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show Saturday to talk about paramedic worker rates, saying effects are likely to be severe. Data from Maine EMS shows about 91 percent of the agencies that responded by September are vaccinated, but the state is not expected to have a more complete picture until later this week that may encompass more agencies than the 78 percent that responded most recently.

Mills is launching her reelection bid armed with a transformative amount of federal money and keeping focus on her main 2018 campaign issue of health care. But every headline from every type of provider challenged in part by the mandate may be potent as the deadline closes in.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Fact-checking the most misleading claims on both sides of the CMP corridor debate,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “More than $60 million in political spending has flowed into the state since the fall of 2019. Pro-corridor groups, funded by CMP and its affiliates as well as Hydro-Quebec, the Canadian energy company that would supply the hydropower, have outspent opponents of the project — led by NextEra, a Florida-based energy company that operates an oil-fired power plant in Yarmouth — about 3 to 1, but the gap has narrowed over the past few months.”

The CMP referendum has taken up most of the oxygen, but there are two other questions on the ballot you should be paying attention to. The corridor referendum is Question 1. Question 2 is a $100 million bond for roads and bridges, something voters have supported the last several years. Question 3 is a little-discussed “right to food” constitutional amendment that may not do much in the short term but could affect future court disputes.

— “Heated pandemic politics are reshaping Mainers’ interest in local government,” Lia Russell, BDN: “Maine is seeing that disparate interest in local politics as politicization around school boards, public health policies and election officials has reached a national fever pitch, leading to contentious meetings among local government bodies that generally don’t see such intense controversy.”

— “Maine is deciding how to rid the roads of vulgar vanity plates,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “People who have the plates will be able to keep them at least a little longer as Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ office begins making rules formalizing what words are not allowed and how people will be able to appeal any plates deemed too coarse for the roadways. But new, crude requests will be held and a free-speech battle on the issue could ensue.”

Golden raises $675K more to keep fundraising head start

The 2nd District congressman remains one of national Republicans’ top targets going into 2022. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat, raised another $675,000 in the third quarter, bringing his total fundraising this cycle to $1.7 million. He had more than $1.2 million cash on hand as of Sep. 30.

His opponent, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, announced earlier this month that he had raised $880,000 since launching his campaign in August. Outside Republican groups have also spent more than $1 million targeting Golden, who defeated Poliquin in 2018 but represents a district that former President Donald Trump won twice.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...